Fischer: Rest, Barry. Rest.
By Travis Fischer, firstname.lastname@example.org
All things come to an end.
After a nine season run, pun intended, “The Flash” aired its series finale last week, effectively bringing the decade long era of The CW’s shared superhero universe to a close.
Who would have guessed back in 2012 that the grim and gritty “Arrow” TV show would end up spawning one of the most ambitious television projects the industry has ever seen. What started as a grim and gritty show about a lone vigilante, trying so hard to be grounded in serious realism, ended up being the launching point for a universe of metahumans, aliens, and time travelers adapting some of the most fantastical stories comic books have to offer.
Was it always great? No. Not by a long shot. I don’t think even the most stalwart fan would deny that the only thing more stretched than the budget on these shows was the writing. Particularly in the later seasons.
I won’t even try to claim that any of these shows went out on a high note. There’s only so many times Oliver Queen can learn the value of teamwork or Barry Allen can unmask the latest mystery speedster before you have to acknowledge that the stories are getting pretty thin. I don’t think it’s a controversial take to say that the shared universe peaked in 2019 with its “Crisis on Infinite Earths” adaptation.
Things really started to turn afterwards. Some of it may have been due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but even before that it felt like the writing was on the wall. Old shows ended, new projects failed to launch, and in the span of three years the whole shared universe was whittled down until “The Flash” was the last one standing.
But even if the shared universe went out on a whimper, you still have to look back and admire the ambition of it all.
While Warner Bros. produced misfire after misfire in their attempt to match Marvel Studios in the movie theaters, Greg Berlanti, Mark Guggenheim, and Andrew Kreisberg built the kind of cohesive shared fictional universe that their big screen counterparts never really got off the ground in any substantial way.
At its peak, they had six different TV shows going simultaneously, each running through their own storylines while also building up to an annual crossover event. And they did it with a fraction of the budget that went into flops like “Suicide Squad” or “Wonder Woman ’84.”
That’s not nothing.
Waning quality aside, I can’t think of a single show out of the set that didn’t have its own standout characters, amusing jokes, clever stories, or legitimately heartfelt moments. They all had their weaknesses, but they all had their strengths and none of them went without their memorable moments.
And while the “Arrowverse” may be over, it still lives on, kind of. The “Superman & Lois” spin-off is technically part of the shared universe and, from what I hear, is still going relatively strong.
Maybe strong enough to warrant an eventual spin-off of its own to start the cycle all over again?
– Travis Fischer is a news writer for the Charles City Press and wouldn’t say no to finally getting a Batman show on TV again after two decades of dancing around the concept with side-characters.